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Category Archives: Advent

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…..

It's beginning to look a lot like ChristmasAt the start of December, what do you see as you look around you?

What does the beginning of Christmas look like to you?

Sight – one of our five senses. When our sight is good, we tend to take it utterly for granted. But I am challenged to take time this week to stop and really notice things, not just see them.

To really notice people around me in the street or in shops, and take time to say hello, or make eye contact, or simply smile rather than just hurtling past or seeing them as a nuisance because they are in my way.

To try to see under the surface of those closer to me, to notice body language and posture that might be clues to tension and frustration. To see what is really going on, rather than simply seeing on the surface because I am too preoccupied with what is next on my list.

To see and enjoy all the twinkly things and sparkly things that are everywhere, and to take time to make my own home somewhere bright and light and inviting, particularly on those days when it never seems to get light.

To really notice and appreciate decorations and gifts, and value and celebrate the person behind it – from the special bauble that belonged to my grandparents to the (ghastly) decorations made by my children when they were at nursery which I still keep (to their horror!).

When it is very dark, seeing what things are and how to move forward can be difficult. So too when our perspective is lost in the midst of dark times – it can be hard to truly see what is going, and our ability to see where we are going becomes clouded and foggy. Perhaps these days of preparation can also prompt us to prepare a time for ourselves in the New Year to take stock and regain our vision for what is important and where we are going with our lives.

And what about the absence of sight – blindness? The weeks leading up to Christmas can be very full and busy, with preparations, shopping, school or family events, work to finish up if we are able to take time off between Christmas and New Year. Sometimes all this busyness stops us seeing what is really important to us – be it the meaning behind Christmas, the importance of family, appreciating good health.

What stops us seeing what is around us? What do we become selectively blind to? Perhaps we can choose to allow what we see to trigger our ability to notice…appreciate…celebrate…one little thing at a time.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Enjoying Christmas with all our senses

Tuning into your senses!

Tuning into your senses!

Christmas is fast approaching – it is impossible to deny it now, despite my best attempts. I absolutely love Christmas, but generally like to keep it to December. But all around us, the evidence of it’s approach is growing, and enthusiasm in this house gaining momentum. A fully lit and decorated tree has been spotted in a window in a nearby street. Christmas carols are being practiced for concerts, the shops are full to bursting with things that – it is put to us – we couldn’t possibly get through another year without.

And so it goes on.

And so I came to wondering, how to approach Advent with fresh eyes, fresh wonder at the beauty of it all, and a day-at-a-time enjoyment that prevents list-making mania and stuff-that-needs-to-get-done overload?

It is two years next month since I left my previous twenty year long career as a physiotherapist (physical therapist) and moved into coaching. But there is still much of the physio in me – I cannot switch it off. I am a very tactile person, very aware of how astonishingly wonderful and complex our bodies are.

I love the connections between body, mind, soul, emotions. And at this time of year, I am particularly aware of how powerful our senses are to connect us with our world. There are so many fragrances and tastes, smells and sounds, lights and physical experiences that are peculiar to the Christmas season – I wonder how our internal sources of sensation of the external world complement our experience of that world?

Can we taste, smell, notice, listen and embrace our way to a deeper daily enjoyment of the build up to Christmas?

This comes back to a familiar theme – that of being present in the moment, stopping to notice what is happening now. Mindfulness contains many of these elements, and is rapidly gaining popularity as we look for ways to contend with an external world that is often jam-packed with information and stimuli 24 hours a day.

Immanuel Kant in the 1760’s proposed that our knowledge of the outside world depends on our modes of perception. Most of the things we enjoy in life – whatever the stimulus is – are derived from our five senses. Think about that for just a minute…..go back over today and register how many of your senses were involved in what you have enjoyed: the delicious taste of good coffee, a bear hug from a loved one, the laughter of a friend, the smell of fresh baking. You get the idea! Now, imagine every day over Advent taking time to sharpen your perception of the world by paying attention to your senses:

  • taking time to perceive our outside world, especially the little things
  • paying attention to what we are perceiving, and to what emotions are then surfacing
  • responding in some way – thankfulness, appreciation, service towards someone in need, reconnecting with someone, simply stopping and enjoying the moment

It is all too easy to become anaesthetised to the little, the ordinary, the momentary, in our headlong rush towards Christmas Day. To literally become numb to it all because we allow ourselves to be swamped with all there is to do, and lose focus.

I love the family celebrations, presents and feasting of Christmas, but also have a personal belief that there is more significance to the day. But whether there is a faith component for you or not, perhaps over these next four weeks we can take a little time to explore how to sharpen our enjoyment of Christmas preparations by tuning in to our senses and making connections that enrich each day.